I saw my first Chrstmas commercial of the season last night and every year at about the same time of that inaugural holiday ad, it seems some company offends Christians by attempting to take “Christ” out of “Christmas”. This year is no exception. It is an odd thing that some Christians expect large companies they enjoy doing business with, to share a mutual adoration of Jesus. The latest version of this is Starbuck’s new mug design (remember people, it’s a coffee cup not a chalice…nothing holy to see here). I like Starbucks. No. I love Starbucks. Especially this time of year when they take my order and my name and I eagerly await to hear the barista shout “Pumpkin Spice Latte for ‘Larry'” (it’s so much fun to have a Starbucks alias, right?).
This brings me to the point of this post. “Going viral” seems to be the goal of the social world and recently a video about the Starbuck’s (rather un-holiday-looking) cup did just that. As a result, it has caused some controversy and even outrage among a number of Christians (and I think that number is very small) whom believe that Starbucks, a company that has made it clear it does not champion what Christians believe, is trying to remove Him from Christmas. It is trending now that we as Christians, while continuing to buy Starbucks beverages, are railing against the design faux pas,and are also encouraging all believers to give their “Starbucks” name as “Merry Christmas” when they order their drink rather than their real name. Everyone knows that when you order you tell them your name so that they shout it across the cafe when your order is ready. Their hope is that this will then force (yes, I said “force”) all baristas to acknowledge Jesus during the holidays. This is, I believe wrong on so many levels and I would like to point out 6 that I think are relevant as we prepare to purchase our White Chocolate and Peppermint Mochas:
1. Some Starbucks baristas are believers and do not need to be coerced into saying “Merry Christmas”. – I know a few of the Starbucks baristas in my city and each of them are beautiful people inside and out. In their case, it is simply the supernatural overflow of their love for Jesus, and they celebrate the birth of Christ with a passion each year. What good would come of a Christian customer ordering a drink and without knowing what the barista believed, gave the name “Merry Christmas” to force them into saying those two words? I see no God-glorifying, kingdom-advancing value in this. Let’s just not.
2. The baristas are not required to say a “name” at the time of the order anyway. – I know from personal experience, that I have ordered a drink and only gotten the name of my order when it was ready. However, I spoke with one of those friends I mentioned above, who used to be a barista at Starbucks and asked if she was “required” to say a name, She said that while it was the “rule” to do so,” some baristas” did not do it. But even if Starbucks required it, the laws of our land are unlikely to support such a directive. Let’s let that play out for a moment. Suppose someone comes in to a Starbucks, and gives their name as “Merry Christmas” and the barista on deeply personal held beliefs, refuses to utter that phrase. Can we think of any “freedom of speech” or “remaining silent” rights that would trump this supervisor mandate? Do we really believe that Starbucks would for some reason place their employees in this awkward position and then demand that they say “Merry Christmas”? If as a result of remaining quiet, a barista did in fact lose his or her job, how much time would pass before that ex-barista secured the services of a well-known attorney who would love to go after Starbucks in this matter? Foremost to Christians, in the end, how would Christ be honored in this?
3. The baristas are neither the policy setters nor the cup-designers – It is my understanding that Starbucks executives claim that their reason for the under-stated tone of the mug was a desire for a more “somber” experience this Christmas, and therefore removed any sort of holiday design from this year’s edition. Whether simplicity or the absence of Christ was Starbucks’ motive, surely we do not believe that each store and its employees all agreed with the policy before the cup was shipped. Many times restaurant customers have expressed their dissatisfaction with a waitress who had nothing to do with cooking the order. A word to the wise: never complain to someone who handles your food behind closed doors. It is the same with the Starbucks baristas. Certainly it is likely that there are exceptions here, but we all assume that Starbucks is a large enough company that they have designers who create the look of the holiday coffee cup somewhere else and then ship those cups to their thousands of locations without the benefit of input from the baristas. We know intuitively that the one who is taking our order had nothing to do with what the cup looks like. If it is truly our desire to affect change, why would we express our opinion at the local level instead of going to corporate?
4. Christmas trees and snow flakes are not Christian symbols. – There seems to be some misunderstanding here. Perhaps there is a “Christian Christmas” cup design with which I am not familiar? If not, then while the graphics on the side of the cup were very festive, snowmen, candy canes, and the like are not traditionally a Christian design. I have never seen a cross or a nativity scene on a Starbucks cup…ever. There was a star that guided the magi to the Christ-child (side note: this happened two years after that night in the stable in Bethlehem and is NOT a part of the nativity). That is about as close as “STAR” bucks has come to depicting the birth of the Messiah.
5. Forcing a company and its employees to acknowledge Christ at Christmas time does not bring the world closer to Jesus.– Now we are getting to it, here. I passionately desire that all come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but I have no example of Jesus ever teaching us to boycott Godless companies when they refuse to see things our way. If my goal is to tell the world about the Savior’s love and lead them to the salvation that only comes through Him, I must reject this as a vehice for doing so.
6. It makes Christians look petty. – Several years ago when Disney was “allowing homosexuals certain rights and protections as employees” and a large influential group of Christians decided to tell like-minded people to boycott Disney Theme Parks as a result of this decision. It accomplished very little. People did not boycott Disney World/Land en mass. It did give Disney lots of free publicity as is the case for Starbucks, here and surely did just the opposite of what was intended. The point is Disney is not the church and neither is Starbucks. They can do whatever they want with their policies and mugs. There are so many more pressing issues for the church to be grieved about like world hunger, the sex slave trade, homelessness etc. When we tackle coffee cups, we look silly and foolish to a watching world and it clouds their view of Christ’s love for them. We are believers. As such we are not a part of this world. However, we are placed in this world to make a kingdom difference and lead others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Remember…wise as serpents and harmless as doves. The way to do this is quite simply not through boycotts and coersive Starbucks names. It will come only through the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives. It will come through our prayers for them. It will come when we show an agape love that is so stubborn, it will love them even when they are serving…or sipping a Peppermint Mocha from a very plain-looking coffee cup.